The equinox on the 22nd September, marks the official start of Spring and generally brings us some warmer temperatures with calm winds in the later part of the month.

Those chilly moments of winter have been incredible this year and now we are ready to experience the weather transitions with summer on the doorstep…

Looking back on our winter, the season was slightly different from previous years. This year, our winter wasn’t as “freezing” cold as it usually can be. We even had occasional showers of rain throughout the season, making it much warmer and greener in some of the valleys.

There have been a great number of animals in our reserve coming in search of water so our waterholes have been busy! As a rule of thumb, many prey species attract many predators too and this has resulted in a great interaction out in the wild and while on safari. Particularly for our guests who visited between June and August.
We have seen many animal kills over the winter months from our top predators including lion, leopard and cheetah.

So what are we likely to see in the next three months in Spring…?

September, October, and November months are without doubt the most exciting months in a year, packed with amazing sightings from all walks of life in the bush!

We know that most of the migratory birds will be travelling back to the southern hemisphere and may arrive later this month. Walberg’s eagles, Yellow-billed Kites, European Rollers, Bee-eaters as well as other beautiful birds are also set to return soon.

Most trees like the Weeping Boer-bean have already started flowering and will attract a lot of Sunbirds and smaller creatures. The Bulbuls are other nectar feeders who love feeding on bees and butterflies!The Knob Thorn trees will also start flowering soon too, which is something animals like giraffes and kudus will be grateful for!

Termites have been constructing and repairing their mounds throughout the winter months.
There has been a lot of harvesting from their grounds so we are to see a lot of interaction going on their systems in this season. The interesting part, termite mound chimneys attract a lot of insect-feeding birds,so we are expecting to see beautiful animal and prey interactions in the next few weeks in and around these mounds. Another interesting fact when looking at the termite mounds is that their ventilating shafts are built and positioned towards the north pole at an angle between 45 and 70 degrees… making it easier for anyone to navigate during overcast days!

Nature is truly amazing.

Termite mound soil is also very nutritious, so there have been clear signs of over-grazing around them already and this will continue to carry on until late November when we start getting heavy summer rains.

We are expecting a lot of blooming and flowering to take place, more colourful forms of nature to marvel at.
There will be an increase in insect activity as the warm temperatures will play a pivotal role in that. Most of the insects are active in warmer temperatures and warm weather spurs on the bugs!

Ant families and termites will start sending off their larval queens and drones and frogs will be there to feast on them. Snakes, such as Cobras and Boomslangs will be active and hunting.

Tortoises will emerge out of the hibernation sites after the first puddles form from rains and take a sip on any larvae around. The first big rains will bring about a change in everything especially the increase in all animal activity and energy.

Looking at the bigger picture, herds of hundreds of buffalos have already been attending our waterholes as expected. Elephants will start adding immersive ‘swimming’ to their daily routine schedule. We are already seeing a few doing that to keep cool.
This is the time for hippos to bask in the sun and get pampered by the high UVA rays from the sun, and they will be doing so between mornings and afternoons – perfect viewing time from Mapogo Villa.

Some species will be travelling a lot from their grazing lands to the waterholes irrespective of the distances and travelling walk ways will be re-established… so there will be a lot of game paths out there, converging towards the waterholes. At some point, some predators will have to share spaces with their prey en-route for water.

We are sure to see a lot of activity around the dams and rivers, although, and in many cases elephant and buffalo will usually dominate these places and are likely to push the likes of lion and leopard away.

What else can we see in the next three months?

We are expecting to see lots of breeding from many species.

Migrant birds start constructing their nesting sites, getting ready for breeding.

Impalas and other antelopes will start dropping their lambs soon. In turn there will be increased predator/prey relationship as most cats like leopards will shift their hunting focus to target taking the young and vulnerable ones.
Hyenas will also be taking advantage of the newcomers as well. There will be a lot of food for everyone.
Some species like buffalo and wildebeest, as well as giraffe, will face a lot of confrontation with lion and will be likely to lose on such engagement.

This is the great time to enjoy the best of both worlds, from microscopic forms of life to the gigantic creatures. Trampled vegetation and naked trees make it favourable for us to follow predators through the bush in the dark and watch them stalking and catching animals, before the summer months the it is more lush.

On the other hand, dung beetles and tortoises will soon march on our roads! Beautiful birds will soon soar our skies and short greener grass is yet to emerge and decorate our dryer plains to the point where it’s green, warm, and dry!
This is the best season for wildlife photographers…you have everything in one plate!

Seasons are special for us, making our immediate world completely different and unique. It’s a pleasure to be here and we welcome you to witness the wonders of nature at Cheetah Plains together!

Sipps Maswangani – Head Guide

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